A back injury can take many forms depending on the nature of the injury. It could sideline you from work for a couple of weeks or cause chronic pain that plagues you for the rest of your life.
Back pain is the top reason for missed workdays. Your back injury could cost you weeks or months of wages on top of your medical bills.
Here is an overview of the causes and effects of a back injury and how you can get compensation for one.
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What is the Anatomy of Your Back?
Your back covers the rear of both your thorax and your abdomen. In technical terms, your back includes both your thoracic spine and your lumbar spine but excludes your cervical spine.
You have 24 vertebrae in your spine. Your cervical spine runs through your neck and includes the top seven vertebrae.
Your thoracic spine includes the next twelve vertebrae of your spine. The thoracic spine covers the region from your shoulders to your mid-back.
Your lumbar spine includes the bottom five vertebrae. This region of your spine makes up your lower back.
The difference between your thoracic spine and your lumbar spine is that your thoracic vertebrae attach to ribs. Your lumbar spine does not attach to your ribs. The lumbar vertebrae have a bigger diameter because they sit at the base of your back. As a result, the lumbar vertebrae support more weight.
Discs sit between the vertebrae. The discs have a tough fibrous outer annulus that surrounds a gel-like nucleus. The discs cushion the vertebrae. They also allow the vertebrae to move smoothly against each other rather than grinding. This means you can bend and twist your back without wearing out the vertebrae with every motion.
Ligaments hold the vertebrae together. They also hold your ribs to your spine. Ligaments provide structure and flexibility to your skeleton.
Your back also includes some of the largest muscles in your body. These muscles connect your pelvis, spine, shoulder blades, collar bones, ribs, and skull. They provide both strength and movement to your back.
What Causes Back Injuries?
Accidents can cause back injuries in many ways. Falls from a ladder can produce different injuries than a car accident. A car crash, in turn, will produce different injuries than a workplace accident where a tool or a piece of building material gets propelled into your back.
Some ways back injuries happen include:
Hyperextension happens when your back gets stretched out. As it stretches, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments stretch and tear. The vertebrae and discs also separate. As the back recovers from the hyperextension, the spine compresses, potentially crushing the discs between the vertebrae.
A common hyperextension injury happens in car accidents. When your car hits another object, your upper body bends forward during impact. But your hips are restrained by your seat belt. Your spine stretches and hyperextends. As you come to a stop, your spine compresses.
Blunt Force Injury
A blunt force injury happens when your back impacts a blunt object or vice versa. You could suffer a blunt force injury when you fall onto your back in an elevated fall or a slip & fall.
A blunt force injury can fracture ribs and vertebrae, damage discs, and tear soft tissue.
A penetrating injury occurs when something penetrates your back. The object can damage bones and soft tissue. But the real danger of a penetrating injury is that the object can penetrate the spinal canal and sever the spinal cord. A severed spinal cord will cause permanent paralysis.
What Are Some Types of Back Injuries?
Trauma will damage different structures in your back depending on the type of trauma and where it gets applied. This means that there is no single “back injury” but rather many different types of injuries that can happen in your back.
Some examples of the types of back injuries you might suffer include:
Back Strain and Back Sprain
Back strain happens when trauma stretches the muscles or tendons in your back.
Some symptoms associated with back strain include:
- Back spasms
Back sprains happen when your accident stretches the ligaments in your back. The most susceptible ligaments include those that hold the vertebrae together and those that hold the ribs to the spine.
Symptoms of a back sprain include:
- Popping at the time of injury
Back sprains and strains usually clear up in four to six weeks with rest. If you cannot rest, the back strain or sprain may take longer to heal. Doctors rarely perform surgery to repair a torn muscle, tendon, or ligament in your back.
When the discs get compressed, they can deform. A herniated disc happens when the annulus separates and allows the nucleus to protrude. This herniation can press on nearby nerves to produce pain and inflammation.
A bulging disc happens when the annulus remains intact but weakens. The weakened annulus bulges. Again, the bulge can irritate nerves, leading to pain and inflammation.
A fractured vertebra is the most dangerous back injury you can suffer. When a vertebra fractures, bone fragments can enter the spinal canal. If they sever the spinal cord, you will become paralyzed below the injury.
What Types of Compensation Can You Get for Your Back Injury?
When you suffer a back injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to pursue injury compensation from the at-fault party and their insurer. This money compensates you for your economic and non-economic losses.
Your economic losses include your medical expenses and lost wages. If your back injury causes a long-term disability, your economic losses also include your reduction in earning capacity due to your disability.
A back injury, particularly a damaged disc or fractured vertebra, can leave you with permanent disabilities. It can even paralyze you or kill you, depending on the location and severity of the injury. To discuss the compensation you can recover for your back injury, contact the Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.